Review – Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1

There is something about nature that is fascinating. People have become these walking, talking, technologically connected things that sometimes seem bordering on ridiculous. Half the country probably has a meltdown when their 3G signal fades. For me having to travel a bit these next two weeks is brutal with some new games sitting in my console. However I, and I know I’m not alone, still truly enjoy being outdoors and just away from society and all its bells and whistles now and then. Outdoor activities, ranging from whitewater rafting to camping to just going for a hike, are all appealing to me and just watching animals act so…naturally, is calming.

Maybe it is for that exact reason that I am drawn to titles involving imposing some semblance of humanity on the Earth’s creatures. Telling a story from the perspective of animals has always drawn me in. Whether it was the old movie Watership Down (I know…it is a book too but I haven’t read it) I watched as a kid or the Mice Templar series I came across recently at FCBD (it was just on the racks), I just enjoy the stories.

That is why today I’m excited to be reviewing a new title from Archaia Entertainment called Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard. A collaborative effort from Jeremy Bastian, Ted Naifeh, Alex Sheikman and David Peterson, Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard conveys a series of short stories detailing exactly what the title would seem to apply, local legends. The stories told are those of mice and legends, and as with all stories in this setting, what better place to start then a tavern?

What causes this storytelling session to begin? Why overdue bar tabs of course. The contest proposed by June, the waitress of this bar, is that the best story gets your tab cleared, while the rest have seven days to pay up. There are only three rules: Tell no complete truths, no complete falsehoods and tell a tale that June has never heard before. Sounds simple no?

So begins the stories of The Hawk’s Mouse and The Fox’s Mouse, A Bargain in the Dark and Oleg the Wise. It appears that future issues will involve more past-due alcoholic mice trying to get out of their debts but for this issue there are these three. The first story involves a time when mice were used by the other animals of the forest as their champions. The second is a tale of the helping of a bat in order to escape to pursue love. The third tale is one of a King and a prophecy and how it will eventually become his undoing.

All of the stories are unique, and one thing I REALLY enjoyed about this comic was that there were different people working on each story. They speak with incredulity of a mouse serving a hawk or a fox the same way a person would speak of helping to champion a shark, bear, or other natural predator that would as soon eat us as hire us to help them. Old enemies such as snakes reveal themselves as great monsters. While you and I may not view them as so, to a mouse they seem as imposing as say a dinosaur would be to us. The artwork is good in all three stories and yet different and caters to different styles. I also love the premise of the best story getting out of a bar tab; it matches the medieval setting quite well.

This issue ends as one story seems to draw to a close and I am definitely excited to see the tales of caution, morality and heroism that will come from the next three issues of this limited series. I think it will be entertaining, just a touch different from the typical fair and contain many different styles and talents that you may not have read or seen before. Definitely pick this one up in stores and keep an eye out for future issues from Archaia. Check out some interiors below, and the issue hit shelves last week.